News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary By Larry Gabriel Want a bottle of blue sky?

Those of us lucky enough to live on the open prairie often stop just to marvel at our clear blue sky that stretches over the State of South Dakota.

If we could put that in a bottle, do you think the people back East would buy it? I think so. More importantly, I think we can do that.

Don't get nervous, I am not talking about bringing all those folks to the prairie. I am talking about real bottles. Actually people are doing it right now, but maybe not selling it that way.

I am talking about honey produced by bees that are a wonderful barometer of their environment. There are more than 300 types of honey in the United States, designated by what type of plant provides the nectar which changes the flavor and color of the honey. A clean environment should produce the purest honey. We have some of the cleanest environment in America and produce what might be the best honey.

The problem is much of it is "given" away as a bulk commodity. (I have been told that some of our honey goes to China where it is blended with their lower quality honey which is then sold back to consumers in America.)

South Dakota usually ranks third or fourth in the nation in honey production, although you might not even notice the industry being here were it not for the occasional deposit on the windshield of your car.

North Dakota ranks about the same with each state having about 225,000 bee colonies. Between the two Dakotas we normally have more honey in stock at the end of the year than California, Florida and Arizona combined. We have enough honey for a regional or state branded product.

What South Dakota needs for its honey is the same thing we need for our beef. We need to turn this commodity into an identifiable and value added product and sell its unique qualities to the world for what they are worth instead of letting others reap that premium.

If you are not interested in bees or honey, recall that these marketing principles apply to all products. Also everyone is impacted by honey production, which brings about ten to $16 million a year into our state. (We might triple that with some branding and marketing.) Also, bees are important to all of us as a plant pollinator. In fact many of our bees hire out to do just that job in warmer states this time of year.

I write on such things because the law says I am "to encourage, protect, and promote, in every practical manner, the interests of agriculture, including horticulture, the livestock industry, dairying, cheese making, poultry, beekeeping, forestry, game and fish, the production of wool and all other allied industries; to promote methods of conducting these several industries, with a view of increasing the production ?".

Honey is used in hundreds of foods, and health and beauty products and the potential to develop unique products is limited only by the imagination. Cleopatra reportedly bathed in milk and honey. Mmmm ? I just thought of a new state motto, "the land of ?"�

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